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Growing Kohl Rabi

Kohl Rabi has been around for hundreds of years and is a staple to many diets around the world.

In New Zealand during the late 1800’s and 1900 it was used primarily as a food crop especially for milking cows, as it adapted well to most conditions and didn’t impart any flavour through to the milk.   It also was free of blights that the traditional turnips or swede suffered. The cattle could also feed straight off the ground without the need to cultivate the root – a time saver for the early farmer.

It was made popular throughout Britain and America during WW2, planted in many victory gardens it proved easy and quick to grow. “Kohl” is German for cabbage and “Rabi” means turnip – hence its flavour description as a combination of a cabbage and a turnip, although considered by many as sweeter and superior to both!

Both the leaves and the bulb can be used as a source of Calcium, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Vitamin C and B6. The bulbous part of the plant grows about the ground, often referred to as a root it is actually an enlarged stem.

Growing Notes

Kohl Rabi can be planted Sep through to Nov and again March to July, it likes conditions similar to cabbage and although it prefers full sun it will take a little light shade.

The position needs to be well drained and the soil can be enriched with compost a few weeks before planting. Give them protect from frost when they are young and they make great neighbours to lettuce, onions and beetroot.

Harvest at around 5-6 cm about the size or about the size of a tennis ball, left to reach full maturity they become tough and stringy. And as they ground slightly above the ground left to big the bulbous root can split.


A recipe from the 1940 suggests that you peel thin slices, put in a pan of water, with a plate on top to hold them down and cook for 20mins, drain, add butter, salt, pepper and returned to the fire to brown – thank goodness we don’t treat our vegetables like this anymore!

Use in a stir fry, grate raw for salads and coleslaw, pickles, vegetable curries or just steamed and served with melted butter. The internet is full of delicious recipes, there is bound to be one that becomes your favourite.


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